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Hlompho Kekana is still captain of this club‚ says Sundowns coach Mngqithi

23 March 2021 - 10:14 By tiisetso malepa
Hlompho Kekana is the most successful Mamelodi Sundowns captain.
Hlompho Kekana is the most successful Mamelodi Sundowns captain.
Image: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

The captain’s armband at Mamelodi Sundowns has changed hands between regular skipper Hlompho Kekana‚ centre-backs Ricardo Nascimento and Mosa Lebusa, and goalkeeper Denis Onyango on a couple of occasions in recent times.

Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi has moved swiftly to crush any existing confusion and gave assurances that the Zebediela-born Kekana is still the leader of the pack.

The veteran midfielder‚ who turns 36 in May‚ was not in the Sundowns match-day squad for the ninth time in the side's 18 leagues matches as the champions squandered a lead to draw 1-1 with bottom-lying club Black Leopards at Loftus on Sunday‚ with Lebusa wearing the armband.

Mngqithi was asked to clear the air after the Leopards match.

“Sundowns captain is Hlompho Kekana and we don’t have any deputies whatsoever‚” said the soft-spoken Mngqithi.

Kekana completed 90 minutes in Sundowns' opening match of the season in the MTN8 quarterfinals against Bloemfontein Celtic in October and followed that up with 72 and 58 against Kaizer Chiefs and Tshakuma FC respectively in his next two games.

Surprisingly‚ he subsequently played four and six minutes against Cape Town City and AmaZulu‚ and then found himself as an unused substitute against Stellenbosch FC in the Sundowns league matches played in November.

Kekana was missing from the match-day squad on four consecutive matches in December and January. He also missed another four games in succession in February and March as the captain seemingly struggles to nail a down his place.

He has played just 500 minutes in 10 appearances in all competitions for Sundowns this season.

Brazilian defender Ricardo Nascimento has worn the armband on most occasions when Kekana failed to make the cut but missed the Leopards match‚ which meant that Lebusa led the team.

Mngqithi said the Sundowns team management has an abundance of players who are worthy of wearing the armband whenever Kekana is not in the team.

“We just make a call [on who is the captain] when we feel it is necessary‚” said the 49-year-old coach.

“We have had Ricardo [Nascimento] a lot as captain‚ [but] now Ricardo is out.

“We could easily have had [goalkeeper] Denis as captain‚ but Denis is always coming from far and we want to save him from all these runs to the referee because we want him to work a little bit more economically and focus on what is expected of him.

“But the truth of the matter is that Hlompho Kekana is still captain of this club.”

Sundowns had seven of their regular players named by Molefi Ntseki in his extended Bafana Bafana squad on Monday.

Defenders Lebusa‚ Rivaldo Coetzee‚ Thapelo Morena and midfielders Mothobi Mvala‚ Andile Jali and Themba Zwane and forward Lebohang Maboe were picked in the team that will play crucial back-to-back 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Ghana and Sudan in the coming days.

Bafana take on Ghana on Thursday evening at FNB Stadium before they travel to Khartoum to take on Sudan on Sunday.